Daughter solves mystery of pilot's Vietnam death

(CBS News) Thousands of people are expected to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington Monday to remember the men and women who served and died in that long war.

One American pilot who died in that war nearly 40 years ago was Air Force Lt. Col. Anthony Shine. He disappeared less than two months before the war ended.

Lt. Col. Anthony Shine was flying on the border of North Vietnam and Laos on December 2, 1972 when his plane descended a cloud covering for reconnaissance and he was listed as missing in action.

His daughter, Colleen Shine, was 8 years old at the time. Later in life, she wanted to find out what exactly happened to her her dad, who is now listed on among the more than 58,000 other names of those killed in Vietnam on the memorial wall.

Over the years, the military repeatedly told Shine that any further searching was useless.

Shine said, "Finally in 1995, they told me (they found his) crash site. They believed there was nothing more we can learn...he was killed in action. Any parts of the aircraft would have been scavenged by villagers for scrap metal and any remains would have been washed away in floods and the erosion. And so I went to Vietnam...to have peace with knowing, in war, there will be casualties where you never have an answer, and I thought that would be the case."

But instead, she found answers and proof of where her father died.

"I found parts of my father's plane, serial numbers. I found my dad's helmet that had his name in it. ... It was held by a Vietnamese villager in his 60s who kept it as his memento of the war, and when I turned it over, and saw my father's handwritten name inside, I asked if I could take it home, that it would be helpful for me in the search in knowing if my father was alive or dead, and he gave it to me."

That led to recovering his remains, and in 1996, Lt. Col. Anthony Shine came home to his country, and to his family.

When asked what it's like to see her father's name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, Shine said, "I think one of the most amazing qualities of the wall is you see yourself in it. I see my father's name here, and he's no longer living, and his legacy is living. That reflection is me and that's how I honor his service and his sacrifice is how I live my life."

The memorial in Washington, D.C. exists because of Jan Scruggs, a Vietnam veteran who conceived of the wall. He started with $2,800 dollars of his own money and went on to raise $8 million for the wall.

Now he is the driving force behind an $85 million soon-to-be-built education center where visitors will see the faces of Americans who died, not just in Vietnam, but also in today's wars.

Scruggs said of the education center, "Americans have fought and died for people back here, they've had these great important values of loyalty, honor and duty. And this is a place where you will learn about those values by seeing the photos of those who did not come back from Vietnam, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan."

A picture of Lt. Col. Anthony Shine will be among those photos.

Shine says the lesson is that it's not over after a veteran's funeral. War, she said, reverberates for generations. But, she added, "If (a family) continues to love that person and embrace the values for which they lived, then they never die. It's not in vain."

  • Barry Petersen

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